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Tops Markets interested in operating a downtown Buffalo store

Tops Markets said Thursday that it would be interested in opening an additional location in downtown Buffalo to meet the needs of the growing population and the demand for an urban grocery store.

The company did not identify any particular location, but confirmed that it “is currently in an exploratory phase in considering potential sites for an additional downtown store.”

Factors include which other retailers are nearby and the size of the local residential population, as well as demand, store size and format.

“We’re excited about the progress that’s happening right now in the city and very much want to continue to be part of Buffalo’s resurgence,” said Chairman, President and CEO Frank Curci. “At the right time, in the right location, Tops would absolutely consider an additional downtown location that would best serve the city’s growing and diverse consumer base.”

The surprise announcement by the Williamsville-based chain came in response to “recent community attention” to the topic, spurred largely by Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown’s call last week for a downtown grocery store on a city-owned property at 201 Ellicott St. The 2.5-acre site, across from the Hotel @ The Lafayette and sandwiched between the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library and the NFTA Bus Terminal, is currently used as a parking lot.

City officials plan to request proposals asking developers to submit project ideas that would encompass a grocery store, residential apartments or condominiums, and a new parking ramp on the site.

“We’re eager to learn more about the project, and when the request is presented, Tops will review it with an intent to participate in the process,” Curci said.

Wegmans has already said it is not currently considering such a city store in Buffalo, although it is testing an urban concept store now in Boston. Joe Dash, owner of Dash’s Markets, could not be reached for comment.

Tops already has seven stores in the city of Buffalo, two of which are operated by franchise partners. The stores range from 16,782 square feet to 84,497 square feet, and employ a total of 1,000. The company has invested more than $5 million in major renovations at three of the stores over the past year, including upgrades at the Black Rock store at 345 Amherst St., the South Buffalo store at 1460 South Park Ave., and a store at 1770 Broadway. In all, 60 new jobs were created as a result.

More broadly, the company operates 162 full-service supermarkets with more than 16,000 employees across upstate New York, northern Pennsylvania and western Vermont.

“Buffalo is extremely diverse and Tops has experience catering to the unique needs and wants of our customers in neighborhoods throughout the city,” Curci added. “We also run successful stores in the city of Rochester and the city of Syracuse, where we have created jobs, positively impacted the local economy and given back in meaningful ways to our communities.”